GTHA residents talk transit with Premier Kathleen Wynne in Virtual Town Hall
On April 22, Move the GTHA hosted a Virtual (Telephone) Town Hall with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig. Hosted by CivicAction CEO Sevaun Palvetzian, an invitation went out to 200,000 residents across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. More than 22,500 participated in the call, asking live questions to the Premier about regional transportation.
Move the GTHA invited the leaders of each of the major provincial political parties to participate in their own Virtual Town Hall – Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mr. Tim Hudak, and Ms. Andrea Horwath. Move the GTHA welcomed Premier Wynne’s acceptance of this offer.
A total of 15 audience questions were asked live during the Town Hall, allowing residents a rare opportunity to speak directly with the Premier and voice their thoughts and concerns. Participants also answered a variety of survey questions throughout the call on topics related to regional transportation investment. Not surprisingly, more than 80 percent of survey respondent felt traffic congestion is a serious problem for our region, and the same percentage also felt that government should invest more in transportation.
Though a variety of questions were asked, a few key themes emerged during the Town Hall:
- A desire for connectivity throughout the region – many GTHA residents commute across transit systems, and want a regional system that is highly integrated and easy to transfer between agencies through fare integration.
- Improving accessibility is key – an effective transit system was described as “the great equalizer” by one resident. Participants recognized that it is an issue critical to related discussions around health (air quality), access to education, quality of life for seniors, and low-income communities.
- Results need to be seen now – “It can be hard for people to think that far ahead – 10-15 years – especially when action is so clearly needed right now,” explained Ms. Palvetzian. “The Transit Investment Advisory Panel recommended a kick start program so that people could see tangible benefits right away.”
Throughout the call, the notion of vision – and the ability of our political leaders to carry a vision forward – emerged. Premier Wynne, responding to a question on this topic, stated “We need to grab this moment and make the necessary investments. I don’t want a Premier in 50 years to be saying ‘what were they thinking? Why did they not make the investments?’”
One caller commented, “…people are willing to pay extra money when they see its going to make a real difference. So why is there so much fear amongst so many political levels about increased taxes, or revenue tools?” In response, Ms. Palvetzian explained that a recent Move the GTHA poll, conducted by Angus Reid, found that nearly 60 percent of respondents stated they would support an increase in taxes and fees to improve their communities public transit infrastructure. “So, the critical moment is here and it would seem the support is there also.”
Ms. Palvetzian picked up on this point in her closing remarks as well, stating “we want all of Ontario’s political party’s leaders to know the support for investment is there. Please continue this conversation with your friends, families, neighbours. We are at a generational moment here. We simply can’t wait any longer to see dedicated investment.”
While our political leaders may vary in their idea of the appropriate vision and financial mechanisms for implementation, not providing a serious plan is simply no longer an option. The Virtual Town Hall further reinforced that, following the June provincial election, residents will expect the new government to put forward a credible plan for getting our region moving.
Listen to the full audio of the Virtual Town Hall here.
Photo credit: Robert Jack 啸风 Will, via Wikimedia Commons